Happy International Women’s Day!
This year’s theme, Break the Bias, is a call to celebrate women’s achievements, to recognize the ongoing impact of gender biases, and to work towards a more equal world.
At WeSeeHope, this moment gives us an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate our work empowering women across Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Women in the countries where we work – particularly those in low-income and isolated households and communities – face disproportionate economic and social challenges in life. From their education to their careers, they often do not have access to the same opportunities as men.
For example, in Kenya, women constitute 66% of the informal workforce. Poverty, choice of work, childcare, skills gaps, and a lack of access to finances and resources, among others, are issues driving this. For the 34% working in the formal sector, for every KSh100 earned by a man (on average), a Kenyan woman earns only KSh62 (The UNDP, 2020).
Also, as our Uganda Country Manager, Sheila, explains, “Land rights is still a major issue in Uganda and elsewhere across East Africa because women own property through their husbands, but not in their own right. It is about access versus control; women work on the land most of the time but when it comes to making decisions about it, they have no say.”
A key focus of our work with women is our Village Investors Program (VIP), which teaches the parents or guardians of vulnerable children to create their own self-funded community banking groups. Members receive training in savings and loans, as well as financial and business skills. Using these, they are encouraged to set up their own enterprise.
We are delighted that of the VIP groups currently in training, 81% of the 11,800 members are women!
Pictured above: VIP groups in Mbale, eastern Uganda (left and right), and in Loitokitok, southern Kenya (center).
As groups build up their shared savings, members can take out loans to invest in their businesses. For women, owning a business and earning a sustainable income is transformative. It means they are able to:
- Afford assets, land and property: Women who otherwise may have restricted access to independent ownership, have the financial means necessary to rent or buy land and property for themselves, and invest in livestock.
- Manage their own money and be independent: Women have the autonomy to make financial decisions on their own because of the income from their business and savings through the group.
- Improve their self-esteem: Women are more informed about how to spend and invest their money, and feel empowered by running and expanding their businesses, learning new skills and being breadwinners of the family.
Women play a crucial role in the development and wellbeing of children, and we are delighted that the VIP is being accessed by such a high proportion of mothers and female guardians.
HOW THE VIP IS SUPPORTING WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES
Pictured above: Esther (left) from Nairobi, Kenya, and Everline (right) from Busia County, Kenya.
Esther is 42-years-old and a mother of six children from Kibera, a division of the city of Nairobi, Kenya. Before joining the VIP in 2021, she used to depend entirely on her husband to bring home food and to cater for her and her two children’s needs.
With the loans she has borrowed from her VIP group, Esther has invested in a grocery business where she sells a variety of vegetables. After attending business skills training, she learnt how to make soap and has since been able to include it in her stock.
Everline also set-up her own grocery business with loan capital from her VIP group in Busia County, Kenya.
“When we started our group, I was able to take small loans and opened a kiosk with 1,000/= ($8.70). As of now, my kiosk is worth 10,000/= ($87) and I am selling bananas, tomatoes, onions, mangoes, oranges, groundnuts, charcoal and cooking oil.
I am able to make a profit of 500/= ($4.40) per day. Through the business, I am able to educate my two children and also take care of them. I have also bought a pig and undertake small farming to sustain my family. I am planning to take my children to secondary school next year and through the VIP I am sure that I will be able to do so.”
The VIP is creating opportunities and security for women such as Ether and Everline, which play a crucial role in the future prospects of their family.
It costs just $40 for a parent or guardian to be part of the VIP – please consider making a donation today.